Healthy Eating: Ratatouille a delicious way to use summer veggies

Ratatouille
Ratatouille

Many gardens are bursting with zucchini and tomatoes. Have you been zucchini bombed by your neighbor yet? That means that they left you an unmarked paper bag full of very large zucchini on your front porch.

I just picked up a lovely bowl of tomatoes from a neighbor who graciously offered them to me because I lamented the fact that I had a green thumb and not a red one. My tomatoes are pathetic even though we have had record heat this summer. I chose to put them in large containers and not in the ground. Of course, this is the summer that I should have put them in the ground I suppose. So you have an abundance of squash and tomatoes. What to do? Make ratatouille! It’s easy, delicious, versatile and a great way to get your kids to eat their summer vegetables.

Summer Ratatouille

Ingredients

About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound zucchini (about 2 medium), ends trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick
Kosher salt
1 pound summer yellow squash (about 2 medium), ends trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick
3 medium cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion (from 1 small onion)
1 pound of fresh tomatoes, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or marjoram leaves (ok to add fresh basil, too! dry herbs are just fine as well)
Freshly ground black pepper
Good quality grana padano or parmigiano reggiano, shredded

Directions

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat until shimmering. Working in batches and being sure not to crowd the pan, add zucchini, season with salt, and cook, turning, until just tender and browned in spots, about 4 minutes per batch. Add more oil as needed to prevent pan from drying out, and adjust heat as needed throughout to maintain a very hot, but not heavily smoking, pan.

Transfer each batch to a baking sheet and spread in an even layer to cool, then transfer cooled slices to a second baking sheet or plate. Repeat with remaining zucchini and squash until all vegetables are lightly browned.

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes, then add marjoram or oregano. Season with salt and pepper.

In an earthenware, ceramic or glass baking dish, layer tomatoes and onion/garlic mixture. Arrange sautéed vegetable slices in an alternating layered pattern followed by a thin layer of shredded cheese until entire dish is filled. (tomatoes, onion, veggies, cheese) The last layer should be cheese.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 450°F. Bake until the casserole is fully heated through and lightly browned on top, about 15 minutes. Serve with some rice or pasta and you have the perfect summer meal.

It is very easy to alter this recipe by using other vegetables (such as eggplant), different cheeses and canned diced tomatoes. You can also use scale this up and use a different proportion of vegetables.

Notes:

  • The exact size and shape of the baking dish is flexible. The vegetables should be layered more tightly in a smaller dish and spaced more widely apart in a larger one. In round dishes, it’s best to layer the vegetables in a circular pattern; in rectangular dishes, they should be layered in rows.
  • Pre-cooking each vegetable in a skillet removes excess moisture and browns the slices, making the final dish much more flavorful.
  • Cutting each vegetable between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick delivers perfect slices. Any thinner, and the slices shrink away to nothing during cooking; any thicker, and the casserole seems clunky and lacks elegance.

Deborah Binder Formal Portrait— By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share here experiments with her family. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and currently chef assists at PCC Cooks and NuCulinary Cooking School. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at jaideborah@yahoo.com.

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